Across the Disciplines: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Language, Learning, and Academic Writing

Bartholomae and Matway, The Pittsburgh Study of Writing

The Pittsburgh Study of Writing

APPENDIX E: Faculty Interview Responses (Responding to Student Writing)

  • M. G. (History) provides extensive feedback in writing and in person. Her marginal comments on a paper are designed to create a dialogue with her students, raising questions about ideas. They are also diagnostic, labeling errors so that students can go to the Diana Hacker website to do the relevant exercises. Finally, a one-page commentary discusses the paper's overall strengths and weaknesses and offers alternatives for revision. While they are revising, students can be in conversation with MG by e-mail or in conferences. She acts as a sounding board for new thesis statements, for topic sentences that will drive the argument—for anything students are struggling with as they write. In addition to her own comments, students in M.G.'s classes receive feedback from each other. "Students tell me that being critics is one of the most difficult tasks of the course," she admits. "They are not accustomed to interrogating another person's prose. But it raises their consciousness about how to persuade, and so on. They learn how to take into account possible disagreement."
  • F. G. (Economics) points to the importance of directing students back to work they have completed. Instructors can provide advice up front, he says, but it is often lost as students work on an assignment. They need to bring out the knowledge (content knowledge, writing knowledge) that underlies students' work. This gives them "ownership of their ideas and their projects; it teaches them to work over time (by reflection and revision) to express what they know in words." The feedback in F.G.'s course is staged out. At the opening of the course, he is in very close contact with students; he spends a lot of time working with the writing and with the individuals. This effort serves to establish his standards for their work, but also to show them that they have him as a point of reference and a source of support. They can see that he gives the care and attention to their work that he gives to the work of his profession and his professional colleagues.